Stuck at home, on MC for food poisoning, Kim Huat taps into his gastritis and laosai, and from his pain, shares his word for the nation.
YouTube link: http://mrbrwn.co/wearebasket
A designer, Kelley Cheng, recently posted some screen grabs of a GeBIZ tender document where one of the requirements was, among other things "UNLIMITED CHANGES". In all caps too.
GeBIZ is the Singapore government website for pitching for Gahmen work and the attitude displayed in the Invitation To Quote (ITQ) document above probably isn't an isolated thing.
If GeBIZ were a Star Wars movie, these are some of the scenes I imagined in my head.
And here is a bonus image: click this.
And a bonus video: click this.
We used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the wife and I, but eventually it got too expensive, so we stuck to our wedding anniversary instead, which is not very far away, in March.
Anyway, when you have three kids, ages 10, 12 and 14, you don't really have time for the trappings of commercialized romance.
Our Valentine’s Day consisted of me taking Joy to church while the wife took Faith and Isaac to see the doctor on a Sunday morning.
The flu bug is not fun at all, especially if it hits two kids at once, and especially if your firstborn daughter has autism and can’t tell you where her discomfort is.
Then the afternoon was a blur. I vaguely remember driving one kid to maths tuition, fixing a broken wardrobe door, and buying a rose at the wet market for the wife, with Faith in tow.
Oh, wait. I managed to catch a power nap too. That was pretty awesome.
Faith had a small meltdown at the mall after dinner because she wanted to go home already and insisted on going down an escalator that was going up. It took both Isaac and me to pull her back and guide the very cranky and strong 14-year-old girl out of the mall and to the car.
At home, I played with my new camera and took selfies with Faith. "Smile at the camera, Faithie!"
Faith didn't smile for the camera but she did give me a surprise kiss. And because of muscle memory, I pressed the shutter button.
Now that is a Valentine's Day moment to remember.
I'm not sure if Faith will ever find her Valentine, her condition being so severe. But she will always have us, her family, to love and cherish her for as long as we live.
I love seafaring stories and The Finest Hours, based on a true story of a daring rescue by the US Coast Guard in 1952, did it for me.
Four men went out in a little boat to rescue the oil tanker SS Pendleton that broke into two off Cape Cod, and the leader of the group, Bernie Webber, is played with much restraint by Chris "Captain Kirk" Pine.
I actually like this less cocky Chris Pine better.
The love story bit is a bit hokey but the drama at sea more than made up for it.
I watched this in 3D and boy, do you feel the waves crashing down on you.
Casey Affleck also put up a fine performance as the strong and silent Ray Sybert, who became the de facto leader of the men on board the still floating rear half of the stricken SS Pendleton.
I should visit Cape Cod and see the beautiful coast there one day.
On the second day of Chinese New Year, when most eateries were closed, I was queuing at the crowded McD's with the son and whispering under my breath, "Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts. Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts. Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts."
She ordered 10 Big Breakfasts.
Then the next fella ordered two Happy Meals to dine in. And six meals to go. Wah lau eh.
Good thing I had that lovely satay waiting for me at my 大姨's place.
Speaking of eating too much during CNY, my friend Jeff sent me this:
To all feasting this CNY, there will be lots of eating and drinking. A friend introduced me a type of weight loss plaster. Just need to paste it. Very effective. The whole treatment is 7 days. Can lose up to 10kg weight!!! And it is not expensive.
So I asked him, "Where should I paste the plaster?"
He said, "On the mouth."
Yesterday, after I read the heartbreaking open letter from the father of the 14-year-old boy who committed suicide after being questioned by the police without his parents or legal counsel present, I felt an overwhelming need to send this SMS to my 12-year-old son.
"Love you, son. Have a good day at school."
He probably didn't understand why I suddenly sent him that message in the midst of his school hours, but it's ok.
I made a mental note to remind my kids that no matter what trouble they find themselves in in future, they must always feel comfortable telling us, their parents.
Much later, he replied, "Don't forget to fill up the money box. I checked the box already."
And minutes later, "Hello?"
I replied, "Ok."
May the biggest problems we ever have to talk about, be mundane things like the family petty cash box running out of money. Or sticking to the 30-minute limit of computer time. Or clearing his Legos after playing with them.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
I finally set up my new 2015 Apple TV with the Siri Remote. Decided to give the Siri feature a try so I asked via the Remote, "Hey Siri, show me the latest movies."
My Apple TV, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6s Plus in the room all heard the question and replied at the same time.
I quickly went down to my nuclear bunker.
You would think that having owned a wireless SONOS sound system in the house for a few years, I would be jaded. But when TC Acoustic, distributor for SONOS, sent me a Playbar, Sub and two of the new Play:5's to play with, it was like having a second honeymoon with a system I thought I already knew.
I set up the Playbar and Sub in my master bedroom, and used my two existing Play:1's to be the rear speakers. Now my bedroom became a home theatre. I used to watch my movies in the living room, where my home theatre is set up. But with the SONOS setup in my bedroom, the wife and I were now watching our Netflix and Apple TV movies in air-conditioned comfort.
The Playbar, Sub and Play:1s were compact and unobtrusive enough to reside in my bedroom, while giving me 5:1 surround sound. Most of our viewing happened on Netflix anyway, which meant tv shows and movies streamed from our TV were in surround. And because the system is wireless, using the SONOS wifi system, I didn't need to run unsightly wires in the bedroom to enjoy surround. I just needed to find power sockets to power the speakers.
With a complete SONOS system in the bedroom, streaming music from our Spotify account or from the music library on my home network drive was even more enjoyable. Playbar + Sub + Play:1s gives me great sound in the bedroom. Bass is solid, the highs and mids clear.
The first thing I do every morning now is turn on the room-filling music. Then when I am done dressing in the bedroom, and I move into the living room to read the papers, I use the SONOS app to shift the music to the SONOS system in the living room, where I set up the new Play:5's.
Ahhhh, the new Play:5. What a huge improvement from the older model! The new Play:5 really surprised me.
Two of these Play:5's set up as a stereo pair are enough to cover my living room with music. You can lie the Play:5 on its longer side for a wider sound stage or stand it vertically for more focused sound.
The older Play:5 had five speakers: two tweeters, two mids and one woofer. In the new Play:5, there are SIX drivers inside the box: three tweeters (one central, two side-firing) and three mid-woofers, each with their own dedicated amplifiers, which explains the clear and vibrant sound.
When you change the orientation of the Play:5, it knows if it is horizontal or vertical and adjusts itself accordingly.
Using new Trueplay feature in the SONOS app, I could tune the speakers to give me equal sound throughout the room or tell the SONOS speakers to focus on my sofa area, where I listen to music most. You use it by turning on Trueplay on your phone, then you turn it upside down so the mic is facing out, and then you walk around your room waving your phone up and down while Trueplay plays a test tone. You will look silly doing this, but the result is impressive, giving you better tuned sound for your room.
My pair of new Play:5's are so good, I don't even need to use the SONOS Sub for added bass (though if you wanted to, it would definitely sound better). I have my Sub with the home theatre setup in the bedroom, and just use the two SONOS Play:5s in the living room. The speakers, including the Sub, are wireless and easy to set up anyway, so I can always move the Sub to the living room to join the Play:5's anytime I want to.
The SONOS app is as usual, a treat to use. All my music services work with it, like Spotify and Apple Music. I would still love to be able to use my Spotify app directly, but the SONOS app is very usable, plus it knows to search for music on both my home music library and Spotify.
Now I am tempted to try adding more speakers into my study room, which currently has a lonely Play:1 in there. It's an audio addiction, I tell you. A SONOS one.
Go join the Tat Chuan Acoustic contest and stand a chance to win your own Play:5!
Apologies for the lack of updates here lately. I'm away in Japan (again), battling some crazy winter weather but generally having a ball. I promise some updates soon.
Here are some fun signs I've seen in Japan to keep you entertained for the moment.
I guess what happens on this ferry, stays on this ferry.
That's very reassuring of my hotel breakfast.
I think Toa Payoh may have a pot problem.
[image by Mingz Wang]
More evidence that Toa Payoh is a rough neighbourhood.
Wow, online crime has a physical location (and yes, it can happen, because WeChat has a location-based feature to find other users).
And finally, this photo above, shared by my friend Jess, tells us that the crime was probably not captured on tape.
Yabuli! The name conjures up a mysterious and exotic land! When I was first told we were invited by Club Med to stay at this resort, my first reaction was "Ya Boo Where?".
Turns out it was near Harbin, China, near Mongolia, in the province of Heilongjiang.
A midnight six-hour flight to Beijing, then a layover of two hours, then another two-hour flight to Mudanjiang, then a two-hour van ride later, we finally reached Club Med Yabuli at about noon.
The room we were given was lovely: a two-bedroom suite with a view.
We had one checked-in luggage that carried some of the bulkier stuff like boots and ski jackets, but the kids, the wife and I mostly carried our own stuff in our Tom Bihn carry-on bags. This wasn't the family's first winter (we were in France around the same time last year) but this was the first time the kids and the wife have ever experienced below zero temperatures, and for the kids, it was their first time seeing snow, so it was quite exciting. I did Finland in winter some years ago, so I kind of knew what to expect, but my biggest worry in the run up to the trip was to ensure they were all sufficiently warm and appropriately dressed for the trip.
As they say in Norway, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.
The important thing to remember is not to have too many layers, or you won't be able to move. So the layers have to work well. I made sure no one was wearing cotton (cotton retains perspiration and doesn't wick, and you end up very cold because the moisture becomes icy). Our basic set up was a base layer (we used Icebreaker Merino wool leggings and tops), then a t-shirt (either merino wool or polyester), then a merino wool or fleece cardigan as the mid-layer, and then a wind-proof, water-proof ski jacket with a hood (we were mostly wearing Montbell jackets).
Hands were protected with an Icebreaker merino wool glove lining and then a waterproof Montbell glove on top of that. We all had an Icebreaker merino wool beanie to keep our heads warm, and a Polar Buff around the neck that could also double as a face cover.
Our feet were kept warm by Icebreaker merino wool ski socks, and we were wearing insulated boots from Columbia. The boots are lined with fleece and can apparently be worn to -32ºC.
We had Uniqlo fleece-lined pants on, and I have to say they worked very well with the Icebreaker merino wool leggings. I think if the weather was slightly warmer (like -10ºC and up), one could do without the leggings even. I try not to wear base layers if I can help it, because they are such a pain.
The layers help you keep the warm air trapped close to your body, and the wind proof outer shell keeps the wind chill from coming in. We carried an extra down jacket each in our backpacks too, in case we needed another layer inside, but you don't need it if you are skiing or doing something rigorous.
We never worried about food in Club Med. We had three major meals a day at the buffet restaurant, and in between there were always drinks and snacks on hand. We had one Mala Hot Pot dinner at the Mudan restaurant one of the evenings too.
We spent the first day after we checked in exploring the place, and sorting out the ski equipment and ski clothes rentals. Note that while the group ski lessons are included in the price, ski equipment rental is not. Also bear in mind that the ski instructors from the Sun Mountain ski school may ask you to try personal one-to-one lessons, which cost extra. It's up to you whether you want to pay extra for personal lessons, but I didn't see a need for it for my family. The free group lessons were enough to learn the basics.
We signed Isaac and Joy up with the Mini Club for kids, and the Club Med GOs took care of them from 8.30am till 4.45pm. For two days, my kids spent the time learning how to ski with other kids, and also had lunch and played indoor games with them. That left the wife and I time to either relax in the room, or go out to explore the snow ourselves.
We also managed to do a ski lesson for ourselves. I am pleased to say that after an hour or so of instruction and practice, the wife managed to ski downhill on the gentle beginner's slope without falling. And she could even stop.
You can see the wife and I in the photos below, dressed in our blue rental ski gear. We look like winter factory workers.
Of course, I didn't want just to ski. I did want to explore the surroundings a bit more. Unfortunately, the week we were there, the local authorities decided to do maintenance of the gondola that could take you to other ski areas and to the mountain top. So we didn't get a chance to take a cable car up higher, not that we were going to ski down the more challenging slopes, but it would have been nice to see the view up there. I mean, who does maintenance during a peak ski season? I suspect Club Med had no control over this maintenance timing by the authorities, so it was out of their hands.
We did manage to go snow trekking, and that was good fun. We donned our winter clothes and geared up for a morning walk in the forest around the resort.
Our first two days in Yabuli were dreadfully cold, at -21ºC and wind chill during the DAY (which is why you see the wife and I all covered up in the earlier photos), but the day we chose to trek was a nice and sunny day, a warm -11ºC with just a little wind.
I know. -11ºC doesn't sound very warm but it is all relative. We didn't even wear our balaclavas and we could sometimes take off our gloves.
Sam, our Club Med GO guide, was the friendly chap who took us trekking. He even brought some mini-sleds for the kids to try riding down the slopes we encountered along the way. Even my wife tried the sleighing.
The photo above was taken by my 12-year-old son, after we finished our family trek. I am quite fond of this photo and I think he is getting the hang of photography.
We also played a while outdoors, at the giant igloo at children's area.
I think my kids are better at this sliding-down-the-roof-of-an-igloo thing than I am.
We also tried the heated indoor pool and outdoor jacuzzi. There is an indoor swimming pool (and gym too) that is heated to about 27ºC. Swimming in it is quite pleasant but the most fun thing is the outdoor jacuzzi. YES, you heard me, OUTDOOR.
That outdoor jacuzzi is heated to 45-49ºC and to get to it, you have to walk out of the pool area into the open. It was a mad dash in -16ºC that day, but once you get into the hot water, it is heavenly. It is surreal to be inside the heated jacuzzi and see ice forming around the edges of the pool.
Don't do what I did: After swimming in the indoor pool, I covered myself with my damp bathrobe and made my way outside to the heated jacuzzi, thinking I was very smart to keep myself covered and warm. By the time I got out of the heated jacuzzi, the wet parts of the bathrobe had already become super cold from sitting out in the -16ºC air. It was like putting on a robe of ice. I think some of my tender bits may have fallen off.
I have to say our first family skiing trip in below zero temperatures went very well. No one felt too cold and all had fun. I think we are ready to try the Club Med in Hokkaido, Japan next. I hear the snow there is like powder. And I want to use the winter clothing I bought for the family as much as possible. Kids outgrow clothes so darn fast.
So they really named a new JC, Eunoia Junior College. It comes from the Ancient Greek word εὔνοια, meaning “beautiful thinking”.
It is also a rarely used medical term referring to a state of normal mental health. I suppose you could say it's a school of the mentally sound.
According to the MOE, it's pronounced "yoo-noh-iea".
I think it was thought up by TriedTooHardia.
At least they didn’t try to rojak Singapore history with Greek etymology and name the school Sang Nila Eunoia Junior College.
Maybe the fifth uni will be called Eunoiaversity of Singapore. Opening next door, Paranoia Primary School and Pneumonia Secondary.
Taxi drivers will probably keep sending EJC teachers and students to Eunos by mistake.
Pop Quiz: What is the favorite football team of Eunoia JC? Juventus.
I am sure new condo projects will sprout around EJC. They will given names like Le Eunoia, Eunoiaville and Eunoiasia. If someone managed to get away with selling a condo near RI called Rafflesia even though it’s the name of a huge smelly flower, then you can get away with any condo name.
A new town centre will probably open nearby. It will be called Eunoiapolis and Eunoiahub.
They should have taken a leaf from the old Compass Point that was renamed to the super hip "1 Sengkang Mall". Can call it 1 Eunoia JC. Everything is cooler with a "1" in front. Better yet, do a "one north" and call it "one eunoia". Atas siol.
According to news reports, the first batch of Eunoia JC students will come from Catholic High School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS). Wah, the Catholic High boys must be very happy.
Kimgeks from SCGS will be happy in this JC. Because you nonya mah.
One day, I hope to see more local-sounding school names. Instead of Greek, why not Malay, Hokkien or Singlish names? Why not Bagus JC (because every school is a bagus school), Simisai JC (because they simisai also good) or One Kind of JC (because they one kind of smart sia).
Or pander to the Singaporean colonial hangup and name it The Royal Junior College of St Cambridge of Oxford by Kent.
Wah lau eh, you know I'm just joking around.
Hey, that's a cool name: Wah Lau Eh JC. When people see their solid results, people will say, "Wah lau eh, your JC very tokong, man!"
This will be the school cheer for WLEJC
"Everywhere we go-oh!
People want to know-oh!
Who we are-ah!
Where we come from!
So we tell them!
We are from Wah Lau Eh!
Mighty mighty Wah Lau Eh!
Wah Lau Eeeeeeeeh… oooooosh!"
After a hectic Christmas season, we packed our bags and flew to Yabuli on Boxing Day. Where is Yabuli, you ask? It's near Harbin, China. And it s very very cold here. -22°C during the DAY kind of cold.
We are here for our very first ski holiday, at Club Med Yabuli. The wife, Isaac and Joy are with me on this adventure (Faith is home with grandma and Aunty, because she doesn't do long flights well). We took a flight to Beijing and then a connecting flight to Mudanjiang, which is two hours away from Yabuli by car.
I will update you guys more when I get the chance. I'm sure you would like to see me in my winter clothes, layered up like a polar bear.
We don't have a Christmas tree this year (because the living room is filled with my bicycles and a new Doob beanbag) but we do have this Christmas decoration on our front door drawn by Joy. All three siblings are represented here.
To complete this decoration, the door bell tone has also been changed by the kids to Jingle Bells. It makes ringing the bell a lot longer than just Ding Dong but I'll let this one slide because it's Christmas.
Blessed Christmas from mrbrown and the gang from The Momma Shop! (And in case you are wondering, yes it was done in one take. Took us many, many tries though. Haha!)
The Momma Shop is James Lye, Anson Koh, Sikai Goh and Titus Ng.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/OnbMnKfo9zY
We started on the shoot very early in the morning, and as you know, I am NOT a morning person. The boys were also working late nights and all of us showed on that morning looking like zombies. Somehow, we managed to get the take we wanted, after countless rehearsals and retakes. Poor Shawne, his arms were so tired by the end of the shoot, holding the camera and stablizer, haha!
Sikai was rocking that pianica, also known as a blow-organ. I tell you, that guy can play ANYTHING. That's really the pianica you hear in the solo, played by him. Titus, Sikai and I were fooling around with the toy guitar and pianica on Snapchat, while James and Shawne set up. You may have seen some of our musical antics on Snapchat that morning.
I believe the mozzies in that forest also got fat that morning, feasting on our legs. Good thing we had repellent. I sprayed that all over me like some cheap cologne.
We hope you enjoy our little happy song. And may you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas!
Vocals by mrbrown
Video produced by James Lye & Shawne Koh
Filmed & directed by Shawne Koh
Music produced, mixed & acapella arr. by James Lye
Music arranged & performed by The Momma Shop
Social Media Links:
Something struck me over the weekend when I took Faith and her younger siblings to a theme park.
It is very precious to see her smile and very hard to capture on camera because it comes and goes so quickly.
Faith’s autism means she spends a lot of time sucking her tongue. It’s her sensory thing, her way of coping with the world around her.
So when she smiles, it’s like a ray of sunshine. You know she must be very happy. Happy enough to forget sucking her tongue for a moment, happy enough to overcome her sensory problems, and just smile with delight.
It is such a raw and pure moment to me.
It’s even harder to photograph her in a family photo. She finds it hard to keep still. She doesn’t always look at the camera. “Close your mouth, Faith! Look at Papa’s camera! Haha!” we would say, in vain.
She hears us and tries to smile but it always comes out squinty. It’s very cute.
It is almost as if her brain cannot tell her mouth to smile. Her smile has to be unconscious.
We take smiling for granted. It comes so easily to us. We can even fake-smile when we are sad or angry inside.
But Faith smiles for real. She can’t fake it. She cannot consciously smile on cue. She has to work through so many roadblocks in her nervous system to get that smile out.
And then once in a while, in a family photo moment, she reaches out and touches your face. Another thing my non-verbal firstborn doesn’t do often.
And that’s when you feel her love and affection in that one awkward touch. And you smile too, covered in the warm rays of her sunshine.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
It's the school holidays again, and those of you who are parents will be familiar with this:
Son, on school holiday: "Pa, I'm bored."
Me: "Oh! You're bored eh?"
Son: "… Never mind, never mind!"
You can hear the "Abort mission! Abort! Abort!" going off in his head.
My kids know better than to tell me they are bored during the school holidays. Because my reply would usually involve one of two words that start with "H" and end with "work".
Still, I try to take them somewhere in the course of the week, or they will drive whoever is at home with them (usually my mom and the helper) crazy.
We went down to Universal Studios Singapore to check out Santa’s All-Star Christmas at Universal Studios Singapore (USS). USS isn't a place I go often because A) it's kinda far (Sentosa leh, it's like another country) and B) it isn't the cheapest thing to do. But for the kids, it's a big treat. So, thank you for the tickets, USS.
You can see the big silly smile on Faith's face when she was there.
We took care to let her ride the kiddie attractions that won't frighten her autistic senses. I think she was okay with most of our choices except the flying dinosaurs one called Dino-Soarin', in Lost World. She held on to me a little when I pushed the button to make our Pteranodon "fly", and wanted me to put her seat belt back on even after the ride. I told her, "Finished already, Faith, haha! We can take off the belt now."
Faith enjoyed the sedate Treasure Hunters in Lost World, the Madagascar ride, the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase, and King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round.
The wife also took Faith to the Shrek 4-D Adventure, while the two younger ones took off for the Puss In Boots’ Giant Journey ride. The wife told me Faith kept taking off the 3D glasses, but she was generally okay with the show. Faith was probably trying to figure out why there were 3D objects in her face.
Fortunately, we covered a lot of ground in the morning and slightly after lunch, because, as it has been happening for the last few days, it poured buckets in the late afternoon.
Since we were under shelter near the New York zone, I let Isaac ride the Transformers ride three times, as a Single Rider. We didn't try the new Galactica ride though, because it was raining. That's the excuse I'm giving if anyone asks. Truth be told, this Uncle isn't that good with roller coasters anymore.
We didn't stay till late because of the heavy rain, and also Mommy had a Chinese concert to attend (I got dragged along too).
The wife and I went to the 黎费辉说唱演“自由发挥”音乐会 at the Esplanade at night. 黎费辉, or Li Fei Hui, is a veteran singer/songwriter of 28 years. The wife is a huge fan and let's just say, I have never seen that groupie side of her before.
The wife knew all the words to his songs (he has written songs for many big stars and himself in the course of his long and colourful career) and she rushed to the front of the autograph session line after the show (which ended after midnight!) just to get her CD signed and photo taken.
When we reached home, we realized we didn't have a CD player in the house anymore. All our music are digital files or streaming. Talk about retro tech, this CD stuff.
My job at the concert was to accompany her and take the photos. I did enjoy Li Fei Hui's banter, his stories and his music though. Eh, Limpeh also listen Chinese music one ok?